The police’s Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) is said to be preparing to seek advice on possible charges against a number of persons, including a prominent Essequibo rice miller.
The miller was among several persons, including officials of the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB), questioned between last year and earlier this year.
Well placed sources disclosed that investigators stumbled on several questionable payments, from a miller to a relative of a former senior official at GRDB. The amount was in the millions.
Still, investigators were also looking how millions of dollars of GRDB money ended up in the miller’s hands.
Last year, former General Manager, Jagnarine Singh, and a number of his former staffers, and board members, were questioned in the probe, as part of a wider investigation involving transactions totaling US$500M. The SOCU has already slapped charges on several former board members, Jagnarine and other ex-staffers. More are likely to come, Kaieteur News was told.
The David Granger administration had ordered a number of forensic audits into several state agencies, including GRDB, the entity that regulates the rice industry.
Billions of dollars were handled by GRDB annually under the previous administration.
GRDB also overlooked the lucrative Venezuela oil-for-rice deal which saw billions being passed through the accounts of the entity over a five-year period to pay rice farmers who were supplying that market.
Venezuela scrapped the deal in 2015 after it was announced that Guyana had struck oil in waters that the neighbouring country later claimed.
It was alleged that the forensic audit report found a number of alarming transactions that the administration said warranted further investigation from the police for possible criminal charges.
In early February 2017, SOCU, an arm of the police, descended upon the GRDB, Kingston office, to secure documents.
SOCU’s inquiries led them to the Ministry of Agriculture, Regent Street where a vehicle, PNN 5632, was reportedly seized. It was unclear what exactly SOCU had seized from the GRDB head office.
With regard to the GRDB report, it has been pointed out that over a three to four-year period, more than US$500M from the PetroCaribe proceeds (Venezuela rice-for-oil deal) would have passed through the accounts of the entity.
GRDB was accused of illegally loaning tens of millions of dollars to close friends and chosen millers. Many other millers and farmers were reportedly sidelined.
Among some of the “anomalies” found were loans without proper paperwork or promissory notes. There were other instances of persons in the agency using GRDB’s money to trade in foreign currency.
The losses for the Government would have been significant, especially if the money was traded for less than it should have been.
The Auditor General and the forensic audit reports have all pointed to severe deficiencies in the manner the money of the state has been handled by the entities.
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